The Road Gets Tougher

By Randall MellMay 5, 2010, 4:35 am
The Players ChampionshipPONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Paparazzi pursue him.

Helicopters hover over his home.

Gossip tabloids continue to pound away with allegations about the depth of his marital infidelities and reports that his wife will divorce him.

Tiger Woods didn’t just miss the cut at the Quail Hollow Championship last week. He looked like he raised a white flag for the first time in his career. He looked like he gave up.
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods practices Tuesday at TPC Sawgrass. (Getty Images)
His woes include the release of Sports Illustrated’s annual survey of PGA Tour pros last week, which showed that 24 percent of players responding believe he has used performance enhancing drugs.

And then there’s the escalating assault Phil Mickelson is launching on Woods’ standing in the game.

With his Masters’ title and second-place finish at Quail Hollow last week, Mickelson has a chance to seize the No. 1 world ranking from Woods this week.

Welcome to The Players Championship, Mr. Woods. Here’s your ice pack and some aspirin.

Woods faces a challenge this week that seems more daunting than when he won the U.S. Open on a broken leg and blown out knee. He comes here with the possibility he’s playing with a fractured spirit.

“Have I had issues with my confidence? Oh yeah,” Woods said.

You can add that admission to the growing list of stunning developments you never expected to hear from Woods.

With this terrible tide of momentum working against him, Woods sets out this week to turn his game around. He couldn’t ask for a much more difficult place to find his swing. Architect Pete Dye’s TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course design ruthlessly punishes imprecision.

Through all of these trials, there’s escalating speculation on the relationship between Woods and his swing coach, Hank Haney. Woods confirmed he’s still working with Haney, but the speculation will be fueled with nearly every errant shot that Woods hits. It may not be fair, but it’s the reality that comes with coaching Woods.

Woods said he’s making improvement this week.

“It’s getting better,” Woods said. “It couldn’t get any worse.”

But it sounded like it did in Tuesday’s practice round.

Woods didn’t inspire much belief that’s he ready to bounce back with a vengeance. In his practice round with J.J. Henry and Pat Perez. Woods hit five balls in the water, and he only played nine holes. In another practice round Monday, Jay Haas acknowledged that Woods struggled.

Woods called this one of the two lowest moments of his career. The other was the death of his father. Woods missed the cut at the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot in his return after his father died.

Coming back from the self-imposed exile that followed his sex scandal is filled with challenges more daunting than those he faced coming back from reconstructive surgery to his left knee after he won the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

“This is more taxing, certainly away from the course, with paparazzi following me and all those kinds of things,” Woods said. “Certainly, I didn’t have the distractions last time getting ready for events. You know, helicopters flying over you on the range, that kind of hover over you and film you. That wasn’t the case then. That’s the case now.”

Henry played Tuesday with Woods and saw those five errant shots Woods plunked into the water. Woods rinsed two balls at the 11th hole and shots in the water at the 13th, 14th and 18th holes.

“I wouldn’t make too much of what happened in a practice round on a Tuesday,” Henry said. “We were dropping extra balls. He was working on things.

“It’s just good to see him back. Obviously, he’s not quite 100 percent with his game, but that will take time. He’s the best player in the world. He finds ways to get things done. He can find a way to win. It’s why he is who he is.”

Jim Furyk, a two-time winner this year, isn’t surprised that Woods is struggling with his family life undergoing upheaval.

“When you look at any player, when you have a family situation, it’s tough to focus,” Furyk said. “When something is not right at home, it’s difficult to play.”

Furyk believes the new scrutiny in Woods’ life must be taking a toll.

“He used to have people questioning his game,” Furyk said. “Now they are questioning him as a person. That has to hurt.”

Woods seemed to acknowledge as much.

“I’ve been trying to make life adjustments and make life changes,” he said. “A lot of people, when they go through treatment, they’re able to make these adjustments in anonymity. I’m not. That makes it a lot more difficult.”

The TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course’s test won’t make his life any easier this week.
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Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm